The body is a wondrous mechanism. It’s the vehicle which allow us to interact with the world around us. Feeling the sun’s warm rays, catching a fragrant scent, hearing a beautiful song…every taste, touch, sight, sound and smell a new experience to behold. But it can be so easy to take those experiences for granted and instead get wrapped up in the body’s image. When that happens, it can quickly become a source of pain and agony…an “object” to be forced into the submission of impractical or impossible ideals.

The Rabbit Hole:
Other than being a bit of a pool rat during the summers, I was never a particularly active child. I absolutely abhorred sports, gym class or anything else that required a great deal of exertion, and did my best to avoid these activities at all cost. I also grew up in a “meat & potatoes” household where you were expected to finish everything on your plate whether you liked it or not. If you didn’t you’d better forget that ice cream sundae after dinner! (And, oh, did I adore my big bowl of ice cream doused in a lake of chocolate syrup!) So, it’s not surprising that I was a little on the “chubby” side in my younger years.

This fact never really hit me until I was about 14 years old. “Heroin chic” was all the rage and models like Kate Moss, with their beyond waif-like statures, were plastered everywhere as the ideal body type. I still remember the exact moment it happened. During my freshman year as I was walking up to class one morning I heard a voice yell out “FAT ASS!!”. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks and at that moment I thought “I am fat”. I decided right then and there I was going to show everyone…I was going to be skinny like Kate Moss…and there began my journey down a long, winding and treacherous road.

That summer I began restricting the foods I ate and, by the time school started back up, I had lost a lot of weight. I felt a surge of accomplishment in this control. No one was calling me fat ass anymore! But that was no longer enough. The seed had dug its roots into my psyche. I needed to lose more weight…”one more pound, just one more”…and down the rabbit hole I went.

This damaging mindset followed me for the next two decades. Sometimes I would wake up, recognize how badly I was treating my body and try to start eating regularly, but inevitably I’d gain a couple pounds and freak out, immediately returning to restriction and obsessive weigh ins. Then, I would restrict so far that my body couldn’t take it anymore. It’d become so starved that I would break down and give in to all those “off-limits foods” I feared the most…cakes, cookies, ice cream…whatever I could get my hands on. Once I’d given in, I couldn’t stop and the binge eating would start. Over and over this cycle continued to play itself out with my body, mind and soul suffering the consequences of the continual yo-yo.

Climbing My Way Out:
It wasn’t until a couple years go, now in my early thirties, that I wholeheartedly decided it was time to make major changes and break the chain. I’d long since come to terms with the realization that my stubby, 4’ 8” frame was never going to look like Kate Moss’s. I was tired of being miserable over the number on a scale, a number that no one else knew or really cared about. (Really, who was I trying to please?) But these bad habits had become second nature, ingrained behaviors I’d come to cling to and rely on. How to go about it? How would I climb my way back out of this deep hole I’d dug myself into?

I first started by taking up yoga. Yoga not only helped me get back in touch with my body and work on my physical strength, but it also provided an outlet for my stress and anxiety. It became my daily meditation, a time to let go of all the thoughts and fears I was holding onto. Then I started focusing on what I was putting into my body rather than how much. I quit smoking and drinking. I began researching the nutritional aspects of the foods I ate instead of how many calories were in them and learned to experience the sight, smell and taste of my meals again. Having up to that point been someone who couldn’t do much beyond boiling a pot of water, I also started learning to cook at home.

Over the last couple of years my health goals have continued to evolve. About a year and a half ago I decided to become a pescetarian. I’ve also found I no longer hold that deep hatred of physical exertion that plagued me in my youth and my exercise routine has since advanced to include kickboxing, weight training and HIIT cardio.

But the single most important change I made was putting away the scale. I’d spent all those years always trying to reach that “magic number”…a number that didn’t really exist. When I finally decided to get rid of that scale, it was a vow to listen to my body instead of something outside of myself.

I won’t lie and say it’s been all roses and lilies ever since. There are still days I struggle, moments those old thought patterns try to rear their ugly head, but I take a deep breath and remind myself why I climbed out of that hole and what’s really important. It’s taken a lot of continued dedication and effort to stay on the right path, but I feel I’ve finally tread my way through the “Mountains of Mordor”. I hope, if you’re experiencing a similar struggle with your own body, that you will find your way too!

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